Caveat Emptor, or in this case Caveat Lector. I should have known better. There were some negative reviews of this first Flavia Albia detective story. One reviewer on Amazon complained that the writing didn’t seem like the writing of Lindsey Davis. Balogna and I don’t mean the city named that in Italia!! The writing in this novel is good, and displays the same style and wit as her other earlier novels. Another writer complained that Flavia Albia is portrayed as a femi-nazi. A whole pound of balogna!!! Flavia Albia has the same independent streak as her father Marcus Didius Falco, and the same keen bloodhound nose for solving crimes and mysteries of various sorts as an ‘informer’. Furthermore, this novel has as one of its main themes a romance that Flavia Albia becomes entangled in with a handsome young rogue named Andronicus. Radical feminist she is not!! She loves her family, is kind to animals, misses her departed husband, and I could go on. There is little not to like about Flavia Albia. So instead of reading this novel first, I read the other subsequent novels in the series (also reviewed on this blog) first, and then went back to give this one a try despite the negative reviews. Surprise! It’s a good and fun-filled novel climaxing with a hilarious festival celebrating Ceres, the goddess of the grain harvest (from whose name comes the word ‘cereal’, not surprisingly). But lest you think this novel is all fun and games and romance, and just too ‘girly’ for words, in fact there is a serial killer (not to be confused with a cereal killer :)) on the loose in Rome, and Flavia and others have to track him down and shut him down, before he kills yet again.
One of the things I love about Lindsey Davis’ novels is that she gets her facts about ancient Rome and its customs and laws and official and festivals straight, but she gives us this information in a pleasing fictional concoction. This is not historical or hysterical fiction ala Dan Brown, this is just ancient Rome fiction where the author has the facts straight, but is not seek to educate so much as to entertain and tease the curious minds of her readers into active thought. Who could the villain be? And what are his motives? One of the nicest things about her novels is that even when you suss out the identity of the criminal before the ‘reveal’ comes, you still are so engrossed in the story that you want to see how the story turns out anyway. As it turns out, this story ends as one part comedy, one part tragedy, one part satire, and one part sad ire. Even at 340 pages,this 2013 novel breezes right along like her previous and subsequent novels. I commend it to you as a fun filled read for the dawn of the new year.
And I have a dictum for you about reviews on Amazon—- Don’t read one or two reviews just because they are at the top of the list. Only when you find a lot of reviewers saying the same negative things about a book should you consider yourself warned off. Look for a negative repeated pattern in the reviews. Otherwise….. make up your own mind rather than allowing dolts who don’t know what they are talking about and have nothing better to do than write reviews on Amazon make up your mind for you.